Oct 31, 2015 3:06 PM

Interest growing in plan to renovate Merrimack County Courthouse in Concord

CONCORD - A proposal to renovate and expand the existing Merrimack County Courthouse downtown is gathering support over the alternative to build a new courthouse on Hazen Drive.

County delegates gave their preliminary support for an evaluation of the existing site to be paid out of county funds but have not yet held a formal vote, according to the Concord Monitor.

The original part of the building dates back to 1857 and the courthouse has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.

“The city of Concord has just put in millions of dollars to renovate the Main Street right down here,” said Rep. Mel Myler, a Contoocook Democrat. “So why, why in God’s name would we take the next block from where they just renovated to make it nice, to say, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re going to have a vacant building here’?”

Delegates are looking at numbers generated by Concord developer Steve Duprey, who estimated the cost of renovation and expansion would be around $16 million. That conflicts with the estimate of Mike Conners, deputy commissioner at the state Department of Administrative Services, who pegged the renovation and expansion at $21 million.

Besides cost, questions remain about how the court would function if the building was renovated -- either by moving to a temporary location or operating amid the construction.

The county leases the courthouse to the state for about $400,000 a year. Under Duprey’s proposal, the county would oversee the renovations and turn the completed building over to the state. If the project came in under budget, the county would keep the difference from what the state has earmarked for the project.

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